Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: August 2016

Heaven is Cheering Us On Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

Email 29/08/16

Well, here I am again. Another week here in Elche has flew by. It started off with transfers, and although neither me nor my companion left the area, we still helped out all of the missions who were leaving and the many new missionaries arriving here to settle in a bit. It turns out that instead of having one big district, they decided to split it up into two separate districts. So, my companion is now the district leader for me and five other hermanas. He’s a bit nervous because he’s used to districts that are predominately Elders, but this is nothing new to me. At BYU, my ward was more or less a 3:1 ratio of girls to guys. My group at the CCM was a 4:1 ratio of Hermans to Elders. Sometimes, people criticize the church for being too male-centered, but these experiences have made me appreciate so much the prominent role that women play in leadership in the church and in especially missionary work.

I’ve written before about our investigator, Maricarmen. She has some physical disabilities that make it hard for her to communicate and function in everyday life, but her mind is still completely there, and we’ve been teaching her one lesson a week for every week I’ve been here. Although she has been keeping all of her commitments for reading, praying, and so forth, we’ve had some trouble getting her to attend church for a couple of reasons. But, a miracle happened this week as she was able to come for the first time! Seeing our ward mission leader, Antonio, wheel her into the chapel, and seeing the smile on her face as members came over to greet and welcome her has been of the highlights of my mission thus far. I am so incredibly thankful for that experience from this week.

I am grateful for all of you who read my emails every week. Although everyone has trials in their lives, a lot of you are students starting school again, and I know that can be stressful. So I want so share something that has helped me a lot during my transition for any of you who may be experiencing difficulties going through or tough situations. This is from a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at the last General Conference entitled “Tomorrow, the Lord Will Do Wonders among You” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng). This talk is special to me not only because I had the privilege of attending the session of conference in person in which it was given, but also because I know that the message of hope it preaches is true. I’d encourage all of you to read it, but the take away is essentially that the Lord doesn’t bless those who are perfect, but rather those who have faith in him and are trying to improve. When we’re confronted by our own limitations and weaknesses, when we’re feeling discouraged or want to give up, we can “keep loving, keep trying, keep trusting, keep believing, and keep growing, because Heaven is cheering us on today, tomorrow, and forever.” Having the knowledge that we’re all children of a loving Heavenly Father will allow us to overcome any obstacle or any challenge placed in our path because we can always call on Him to help us, and He always will. Sometimes the Lord sees fit to test our patience, but I promise that this is true.

This coming week is going to be probably one of the craziest and busiest weeks which I’ve had here in my mission so far, so I’m sure next week’s email will be pretty exciting, so you all definitely won’t want to miss that.

With love,

Élder Stark

Photos

1: Enjoying the sunset and the palms as we wait for the bus.

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2: Maricarmen, our investigator, is actually a truck.

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3: Until next time

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Video: Timelapse in the evening of the view from our piso (Elder Pesce wasn’t feeling well, so we went home early that night).

Video

A New Transfer

Email 22/08/16

Today is the first official day of my second transfer in the field as a missionary. I can’t tell whether or not my time here in Elche has flew by or dragged on, but whatever the case has been, I survived. Reflecting on it, it’s been a difficult transition. It’s been a real wake up to the reality of the challenging nature of missionary work and the things that I’m going to have to be coping with for the next 21 months of my life. However, trying times do have a way of making one develop faith. Without the help of my Heavenly Father, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.

This week, I read the talk “God is the Gardener” by Hugh B. Brown. You can read a paraphrased version of it quoted in a talk by Elder Christofferson entitled, “As Many as I Love as Rebuke and Chasten” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/as-many-as-i-love-i-rebuke-and-chasten?lang=eng). I realized as I was reading it how absolutely cut down a mission has made me feel so far. My weaknesses have been exposed and magnified like no other time in my life, and as much as it’s hard to be learning how to overcome them, I’m okay. I know that I can trust in the Lord to help me change into the person that He needs me to become.

So, not surprisingly, Elder Pesce and I are staying together as companions here in Elche for this transfer; I still have six weeks of in-field training left with him. They’re changing up our district a good amount though, and even adding three new missionaries into the area. That means that our district will have a total of five companionship and one trio, or 13 missionaries in it starting this week. I believe that is pretty big for a single district. Additionally, four of those six companionships will be training, so I guess Elche is a preferred area for that.

We had many experiences this week of the Lord putting people into our paths to teach. I’ll share a story. The other week, Elder Pesce and I were having an English fast day, and he told me that we were going to go visit a member, Tomás, in the hospital. When I asked why, I thought he said that they cut off his foot due to complications with diabetes. I was very confused when we went to the hospital and I saw that he still had both feet, but it turns out that he only had a toe get cut off. Loosing a toe is still a challenge, but there’s a pretty big difference between a toe and a foot haha. Spanish is fun.

Anyway, the other man in the hospital room, Andrés, is super nice and seemed sincerely interested in the church. We were visiting both of them on Friday when Andrés told us that his birthday was on Saturday! Although he is Spanish, his family lives in Venezuela, so we threw a little party in his room for his 66 birthday, and I think that helped to open his heart because he wants to meet more after he is discharged from the Hospital. If nothing else though, I’m just glad that I got to meet and talk to him and hopefully brighten his situation at least a bit.

Mosiah 2:17 teaches us, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” I encourage all of you to find ways to serve those around you, maybe something even as simple as a smile or a “Hello,” because you never know what it could mean to someone else.

With Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

1-2: It was Elder Hammond’s one year anniversary of being a missionary, and his family shipped him a complete Minions themed party kit including cake, party favors, decorations and everything else. Elder Hammond; Hermana Butler, Hermana Prior, Hermana Moore, Hermana DeBoard, Elder Llavina, Elder Brown, Elder Stark, Elder Fumero; Elder Pesce

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3: Waiting for the bus outside of the hospital

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4: Until next time

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Crazy Week in Elche (and Elda!)

Email 14/08/16

Hello everybody,

There’s a member here, Juan, who seems to enjoy buying us KFC, so I’m
back in this same KFC in the mall for the third time this transfer,
and I honestly can’t believe that it’s already been a week since the
last time I was here. This week definitely was one of the fastest that
I’ve had on my mission so far, for several reasons.

First, I went on my first companionship exchange! After our district
meeting, Elder Brown and I went to his area in the city of Elda whilst
his companion (and the district leader) Elder Fumero and my companion
stayed here. Elda was nice because everything there is more spread out
and you can actually see past the buildings to the mountains! But,
their area is geographically much larger than ours with only a few
members and investigators, so most of our time was spent walking from
place to place, ringing doorbells for less actives and recent
converts. Besides one brief conversation about gardening with a former
investigator, we didn’t find anyone else at home for the entire
evening.

As we were walking back to the piso, we were taking, and we discussed
how if we had just stayed in the piso that evening and hadn’t gone
out, the outward effect of our works would have essentially been the
same; nobody would have noticed the difference if we were absent.
However, we knew that God still noticed our efforts. For me, this
experience was a reminder that He still expects our full, sincere
efforts even if they will seemingly go unnoticed, and I know that
he’ll always bless us for the work we do on his behalf, whether or not
they are noticed by others.

Next, President Andersen was here for interviews this week! He
conducts them with all of the missionaries in the mission every other
transfer (6 weeks), so I feel very fortunate to have arrived when I
did to the field. Additionally, I feel like I’m finally overcoming the
initial shock of arriving in the field and am feeling much more
confident than I have been, so all in all, it was a tremendous
interview.

Finally, there were three baptisms in Elche this week! The hermanas
baptized a woman and her daughter, and the other Elders had a
different service with someone else, so there were two baptismal

services on Saturday. How I participated will make my mom
happy: I played the piano for both of them. I’ve actually played the
piano quite a bit on my mission so far. My initial plan was just to
not say anything about my ability to play piano on my mission since,
honestly, it’s a bit stressful to be called on at the drop of a hat to
play, but starting in the CCM, I realized that it’s better to use my
talents to help others rather than just keep them to myself. So, so
far, I’ve played in several meetings in the CCM, a stake priesthood
training meeting, those baptisms, and several other times.

Sadly, our best investigator, Paula, is moving back to Madrid (she was
only living in Elche for a few months). She wants to be baptized, but
her parents don’t want her to, so it’s a complicated situation, but
while she was in Elche, she had the opportunity to go to church every
week, attend EFY, and take all of the lessons, so I guess all we can
do now is send her information to the Madrid mission and hope for the
best. So, it’s definitely a disappointment that she is leaving, but
we’ve been having more success with another investigator, Maricarmen.
She has really impaired motor movement and speech because of a stroke
or tumor I think, but her mind is still completely there.  She’s been
reading the Book of Mormon and should hopefully be coming with us to
church this week. Things are somewhat slow moving with her due to her
disabilities, but the progress is steady and sure.

So, in all, it was a crazy week with its highs and lows, but
definitely it was a good week to be a missionary.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Chilean-style “Completos.” Elder Pesce (my companion) is from Chile
and Hermana Moore did a study abroad in Chile for a year, so we’ve
eaten these a few times.

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2: “Make España Great Again” (Don’t interpret this as a political
statement of any kind, please)
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3-4: Saturday was the peak of the super huge holiday here in Elche
that has been going on for the past two weeks. It’s like every night
has practically been like the Fourth of July, but Saturday night was
like 10x anything that I’ve seen in the states. I attached a video
of the climax on Saturday night, and everything was just going as
crazy as you see it in the video for 30-45 minutes straight. It was so
cool.
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5-6  Us with Paula 😭
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8: The statue is the woman of Elche. There’s replications and
dedications of her all over the place.
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Seguridad

Hello everybody,

I’ve been thinking a lot about security this week.

First, I want to share an excerpt from the weekly mission bulletin from last week:

We had a challenging experience yesterday afternoon. About 16:30 Sunday afternoon Elder Gozart and Elder Egbert went to the mission office. Upon arriving they were not able to open the office door with their key. They could see lights on inside and assumed the other office elders were there so they rang the doorbell to be let in. A moment later, the door opened and two men came running out yelling for them to close the door as they fled. As these elders looked into the office from the outside they could see the office safe had been taken from the wall and was on the floor in the office visible from the outside door. They immediately recognized that the office had been robbed and that these men who had fled were obviously the perpetrators. The elders then called the police. They were wise enough to recognize it was best not to enter the office until after the police arrived. Moments later the police began to arrive. They had also received a call from a person on the sidewalk out on the street in front of the office of seeing two men descend from the balcony and flee with a Mercadona bag in their hand. It then became apparent that there were four men involved in this incident and two had fled through the door and two had gone out the window and climbed down from the balcony. The men had attempted to cut the lock mechanism out of the safe door in order to open it and were unable to do so then they determined to remove the entire safe and take it. It was a massive task to remove the safe and it caused much damage and mess to do so. There was not a large amount of money in the safe but even still they didn’t get it open to get to it. In the midst of their effort they did take about 30 iPads that were being kept in the office in preparation for new missionaries. That is a significant monetary loss.

(I overheard on the TV too that over 400,000 € of merchandise was stolen in the course of 40 seconds from a store in Barcelona, maybe, so at least the break-in to the mission office wasn’t that bad.)

Next, this past week and this coming week in Elche has been some type of local holiday which apparently involves setting off a lot of fire crackers at all times of the day and night. Really, really loud firecrackers too, and because our piso is on the busiest street corner and plaza in the city, one goes off outside of our window probably every 10 seconds or so when we return to the piso at night. It almost sounds like gunshots, all night, every night.

Outside of our piso at night

Outside of our piso at night

(Luckily, I have earplugs. Also, the door to our piso probably has around 10 bolts on it, so if it were people shooting each other that much outside, I think we’d be safe.)

Last week, as you can see in my photos, we visited a castle in Alicante. I honestly have no idea how old it is or what is the history behind it is, but clearly, the security of the castle failed at some point in time and the ruler’s power was usurped.

(Although based on its beautiful location, it seems more like a resort than a castle.)

Finally, many of you know that I run a number of websites. Before I left on my mission, I painstakingly set things up so that they wouldn’t have any problems or issues during these two years. However, last week, I received notice from my family that a security problem with one of them forced my host to suspend operations of all of my websites. Even though I had thought that everything was safe and secure, clearly it was not.

(I give many thanks to my mom and my brother for figuring out and fixing the problem with minimal help from me.)

So, to summarize, lots of things happened this week illustrating that the world in which we live is not a very secure place. However, through the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ we can introduce safety, specifically spiritual safety, into our lives.

A general conference talk which I’ve kept near to my heart thus far on my mission has been “Safety for the Soul” by Jeffrey R. Holland (October 2009, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/safety-for-the-soul?lang=eng). I highly encourage all of you to read it, but in short, it’s about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ will never lead us astray. I know that The Book of Mormon will strengthen us and our families and make it so that all of the most important and sacred things in our lives are kept out of the hands of the adversary.

I stand with Elder Holland when he declares, “Brothers and sisters, God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time. Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived”–and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you.” Even though the things of the world may fail us, the love which God has for his children will never change. The truthfulness of and security that comes from living by the example of Jesus Christ will never change. The divinity of the Book of Mormon will never change.”

Although the world around us is always changing, it’s my promise and testimony to you all that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon are constants through which we can derive peace and happiness in our lives.

All the best,

Élder Stark

Castle of Santa Barbra in Alicante with my district.

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It’s a new mission rule that all missionaries must wear at least three name tags at a time so that people can recognize us more easily.

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Elche sunset

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Zone meeting from this past week in Alicante! Our zone basically covers Alicante, Elche, and a couple of small pueblos nearby.

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General everyday missionary stuff

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Also, look at how much bread people gave us this past week. Not pictured is the 5 loaves which we had already put in the freezer.

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Until next time

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Nine Percent Done, Ninety One Percent Left To Go

Email 1/8/16 (August 1, 2016)

Today marks the beginning of my third month of being a missionary. I’m not counting down the days until I return home or anything like that, but I did calculate yesterday that I’m about 9% complete with my mission. I suppose I’ll just be focusing on making the remaining 91% better and better.

Speaking of better, this week was a significant improvement over the past week. Yes, a mission is still tremendously hard, and many of the same challenges that existed in my life last week are still present, but through prayer, fasting, and making the choice to not feel frustrated, everything feels significantly better.

Last week, we were visiting a menos activo and when we got to her piso, she had the DVD of The Restoration movie in her hands and she was talking about how she was angry. So, I started to get a little worried about what from the restoration and history of the church would make her angry, and was trying to think of responses to any possible problems, but it turns out that she was angry because the movie had to end and she wanted to see more haha.

Because of that, I started looking for more videos and other resources from the church that go more into depth about the restoration. I found the “Church History in the Fullness of Times Student Manual,” and have read almost 500 pages from it since Monday. Reading about the trials and struggles that the early members of the church had to experience, including widespread persecution, extermination orders, and leaving their homes and possessions and walking across the plains and through the mountains under the most difficult circumstances makes me proud to be a missionary. I have ancestors included with the early saints and I feel so privileged to be able to carry on with the work that they sacrificed so much for. I am so grateful, everyday, to be able to share The Book of Mormon and the powerful witness therein of Jesus Christ with those whom I talk to everyday.

With Love,

Èlder Stark

P.S. I’m in a public plaza by our piso using free public Wifi. We just finished our last appointment and are about to return for the day. It’s 10 minutes to 10, still a little light out, and there’s kids and people everywhere, the Spaniards truly are a people of the night.

Photos

We took a district trip to a castle in Alicante today, but I need time to process through all of the pictures that were taken, so I’ll send those next week.

1-5: We went ice skating last week during our P-Day! Since I have many challenges with skating related activities, the part I enjoyed most was the coldness of the room. Most buildings in Spain have no type of central heating or cooling system, so I often spend much of the day inside pretty warm environments.

1: Elder Pesce and me

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2: Elder Pesce, me, and Hermanas Moore and DeBoard, the other missionaries serving in our ward.

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3: Elder Pesce and me on the ice

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4: Me wondering where I went wrong and reflecting on why I made such bad decisions to get me onto a skating rink for the second time in a year

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5: Everybody!

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6-7: Lunch and some service out in the campo

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Until next time.

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